A Canadian university is under fire this week for allowing a white professor to teach a course on Native Canadian history.
The course, which is specifically about controversial Canadian boarding schools that were attended by indigenous children, was assigned to white professor Martha Walls who has an expertise in the course’s subject matter.
Despite Walls’ qualifications, Mount Saint Vincent University has received a flurry of criticisms for allowing a white professor to teach the course.
Rebecca Thomas, a Mi’kmaq community activist, argued that native Canadian people, also know as Indigenous Canadians, are studied like they are an artifact of the past even though they are still thriving in modern Canada.
“There is this perpetuation that non-Indigenous people have the right and expertise to speak on Indigenous topics when in reality the lived experience of what it’s like to be a product of these systems within Canada, there’s no voice better than first voice,” she said.
“We get taught about and studied as though we are gone, but we’re still here,” Thomas added. “People shouldn’t see Indigenous people telling their own stories as exotic or a novelty. We’re authoring our own stories now, and that sadly is very new but needs to be normalized so that it’s the everyday occurrence.”
Walls says that she will meet with university faculty to decide how to best proceed with the course. Despite the pushback, in a statement published on Tuesday, Mount Saint Vincent University announced that Walls will be permitted to teach the course.
“Walls has the support of Indigenous and non-Indigenous faculty and administration at the Mount, to teach the course regarding residential schools,” the university wrote in a statement.
Mark Mercer, president of the society and a philosophy professor at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax strongly condemned any suggestion that Walls was unfit to teach the course because of her race.
“The idea that only Indigenous scholars can teach topics involving Indigenous People is false and pernicious. Mount Saint Vincent University should clearly and forcefully repudiate it,” Mercer said.